Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news
Your connection to industry & member news  |  July 15, 2021

Editor's Note: Don't forget Bill's retirement party is tonight from 5-7 p.m. at The River Center in Saluda Shoals Park (5605 Bush River Road, Columbia, SC 29212). Dress is island casual. We're excited to celebrate Bill and all that he's done for S.C. newspapers and open government!
By Eric P. Robinson, USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Media Law Then and Now: In Recognition of Bill Rogers’ Retirement

Each month in this column, I attempt to highlight a recent development in media law, either in South Carolina or nationally, that may have an impact on the news organizations that are members of the Press Association. But for this column, in honor of the retirement of Bill Rogers after 33 years as executive director of the Association, I thought it would be enlightening to look at media law as it existed in South Carolina and nationally when Bill began here, and explore how the law has changed since. Of course, Bill and his colleagues at the Association, SCPA attorneys Jay Bender and Taylor Smith, and the members of the Press Association have also all played in a role in these developments, particularly at the state level.
Nationally, any discussion of modern media law essentially begins with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, which revolutionized American libel law by recognizing that the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment requires some limitations on defamation. In Sullivan the court held that in order to win a libel case, public officials must show “actual malice”: that the media or other defendant either knew that the statement at issue was false or acted with “reckless disregard” whether it was true or false. 
By the time Bill began at the Press Association in 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court was deep into the process of expanding and refining the standards it had imposed in Sullivan, a process that continued for more than two decades. The result is the law today: that public figures—not just public officials—need to show “actual malice” in order to win any damages in a libel case. But private figures can win damages by showing whatever the state in which they are suing requires—which cannot be just that the material was published—but if the issue is a matter of public concern then they must show “actual malice” in order to win punitive damages. (If it is a matter of private concern, the state standard applies for both compensatory and punitive damages.) 
In 1988—the year that Bill began at the Press Association—the U.S. Supreme Court extended the “actual malice” requirement to a claim for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” by evangelist Jerry Falwell over an ad parody in Hustler magazine which falsely stated that Falwell’s first sexual experience was in an outhouse with his mother. The Supreme Court agreed with the jury and the lower appeals court that the ad parody “was not reasonably believable,” so that Falwell—a public figure—could not show that the transparently fake ad had been published with “actual malice.” Read more

PALMY winners live for proofing

2021 PALMY Ad Contest winners are now live for proofing. Please take a look at the winners list and let us know by July 19 if you have corrections.
Winners will be presented over Facebook Live in a virtual presentation on July 23. A recording will also be available on Vimeo, Facebook and embedded on scpress.org.
Judges' comments, Best of Show, Designer of the Year and the President’s Award for Best Overall Advertising will be announced on July 23.
All plaques and certificates will be delivered to newspapers in late July/early August. In most cases, awards will be shipped via USPS Priority Mail at no charge to the newspaper, but some will be hand-delivered. We’ll reach out to each newspaper directly to schedule delivery.
Thanks to members of the Alabama Press Association for judging this special contest!

SLED says it’s still too early to release details on Murdaugh case, weeks after killings

WALTERBORO — More than a month after two members of a prominent South Carolina family were found dead, police say it’s still too early in the investigation to say what evidence will end up being important.
That is the State Law Enforcement Division’s argument for continuing to keep secret even basic details of what investigators have found so far about the June 7 shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh at their family’s hunting lodge on the edge of Colleton County.
Circuit Judge Bentley Price asked SLED and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office to justify the extensive redactions they applied to their public reports on the killings, which were only released after The Post and Courier filed a lawsuit. At a July 14 hearing on the blacked-out information, Edward Fenno, an attorney for the newspaper, argued that the agencies had been “unlawfully heavy-handed” in their approach.
“They’re not thinking about the Freedom of Information Act,” Fenno said. “They’re just redacting as they see fit.”
South Carolina’s open-records law allows police to withhold information if releasing it would interfere with a potential law enforcement action, give up their techniques or invade someone’s privacy. ...
“At this stage of any investigation such as this, it is exceedingly difficult to know precisely what evidence, witnesses, and information are of ultimate importance, and what evidence, witnesses, or information proves to be of little value,” SLED and the sheriff’s office wrote in their explanation.
In a brief to the court, Fenno countered that the law doesn’t let police withhold information based on hypothetical concerns. Police have to prove that disclosing information “‘would’ interfere” with their work or “‘would’ cause similar problems,” he wrote.
“The FOIA statute does not say ‘might’; it says ‘would,’” Fenno wrote.
By Thad Moore and Stephen Hobbs, The Post and Courier | Read more

"Extended Warranty" by Robert Ariail

If you can't get enough of award-winning Camden cartoonist Robert Ariail, enjoy his new strip featured every week in the Charleston City Paper, which has granted us ongoing permission to republish it. Called "Lowcountry," the weekly feature, which is available for syndication in South Carolina newspapers, focuses on politics, human nature, the environment and public policy. More: Contact publisher Andy Brack.

FOI Briefs

MPA files lawsuit against Town of Blythewood after mayor fails to comply with FOI law

The Town of Blythewood has been at risk of a legal action for almost two months after Mayor Bryan Franklin failed to submit responsive documents to a Freedom of Information request from MPA Strategies, the town’s newly contracted marketing and grant writing firm.
On Tuesday, June 28, MPA filed that legal action against the Town, stating that, “The Town still has not complied with the plaintiff’s request and has demonstrated no intent to comply with the law.”
MPA is asking for a declaratory judgment and for injunctive relief pursuant to and under the authority of S.C. Code 30-4-10, et seq., which is known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
MPA filed the complaint in the Court of Common Pleas Fifth Judicial Circuit in Richland County.
By Barbara Ball, The Voice of Blythewood | Read more

Industry Briefs

Critics: Postal Service plans imperil community newspapers

The U.S. Postal Service’s plan to raise mailing rates could present one more damaging blow to community newspapers already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and advertising declines, a trade group says.
Rates on periodicals would increase by more than 8% as of Aug. 29, according to agency filings. The price jump is part of a broad plan pushed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to overhaul mail operations.
The impact of the periodical rate increase is expected to be felt most by small daily and weekly newspapers, as well as rural newspapers, which depend on the Postal Service since they have shifted from using independent contractors for deliveries.
In response, publishers potentially could be forced to further reduce staff or forgo home deliveries entirely and instead send papers to communal news racks, or even shutter their papers, said Paul Boyle, senior vice president at the News Media Alliance, a trade association representing nearly 2,000 news organizations in the U.S.
By David Bauder and Anthony Izaguirre, The Associated Press | Read more

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